Thursday, July 22, 2010

At Sea with Philosophy

. . . so Mr. Easy turned philosopher, the very best profession a man can take up, when he is fit for nothing else; he must be a very incapable person indeed who cannot talk nonsense. For some time, Mr. Easy could not decide upon what description his nonsense should consist of; at last he fixed upon the rights of man, equality, and all that; how every person was born to inherit his share of the earth, a right at present only admitted to a certain length; that is, about six feet, for we all inherit our graves, and are allowed to take possession without dispute. But no one would listen to Mr. Easy’s philosophy. The women would not acknowledge the rights of men, whom they declared always to be in the wrong; and, as the gentlemen who visited Mr. Easy were all men of property, they could not perceive the advantages of sharing with those who had none. However, they allowed him to discuss the question, while they discussed his port wine. The wine was good, if the arguments were not, and we must take things as we find them in this world.

from Mr Midshipman Easy, by Capt Frederick Marryat, RN (1792-1848)

Which I have begun reading this very afternoon, including this very sound opinion on philosophy as practiced in the early 19th century. "Thrilling tales of the sea" will ensue says the Marryat biographer. Will they be as good as Patrick O'Brian? That may be too much to ask. An early 19th century CS Forester would be acceptable. We shall see. So far, so good.